Skip to main content

The Best Coach From Each Power-Five Conference Without A National Title

The Best Coaches to Never Win it All

There have been plenty of great coaches to never win a national title - but who's the best of the group? Let's take a look conference by conference.

Big Ten: Bo Schembechler


Career Stats at Miami (OH) and Michigan


2 MAC Titles, 13 Big Ten Titles

When I started reviewing the numbers, I had a few B1G coaches in mind. I had Bo, of course, John Cooper, Barry Alvarez, and Hayden Fry. But looking over the stats, Bo was really the only option.

He was already making waves before arriving in Ann Arbor, with his 40-17 record at Miami of Ohio. Bo hit the ground running at Michigan with a share of the B1G Ten title in his first season in 1969. He would bring home 8 B1G titles during his first ten seasons. His infamous near-miss title came in the '77 Rose Bowl game; #2 Michigan may have gotten a piece of the 1976 title had they beaten #3 USC. For all of the good I can tell you regarding Schembechler's run, his Achilles Heel was the Rose Bowl. He lost his first five in the 1970s, getting his first win in his 6th appearance in '81 against Don James's Washington Huskies. He would finish his career with just 2 Rose Bowl wins out of 10 appearances.

SEC: Pat Dye


Career Stats at East Carolina, Wyoming, & Auburn


1 Southern Conference Title, 4 SEC Titles

I had quite a few names on my list when considering the SEC. Johnny Vault came to mind first, but although he never snagged a Coaches or AP title, many people would consider his FWAA title in 1960 as legit as any proclaimed. So Pat Dye was my obvious choice after disqualifying Vault.

It was against his former boss Bear Bryant's advice to take the job; he took it anyway. When he arrived in Auburn in '81, he already had 54 wins between East Carolina and Wyoming. On several occasions, folks in the know of that day suggested Bryant wanted Pat Dye to succeed him at Alabama. However, it has also been acknowledged that Dye wanted no part of that problematic gig. Pat Dye would instead make his legacy at Auburn.

Auburn had been in a rut for nine seasons before Dye arrived. Doug Barfield had shown some promise with his 1979, 8-3 campaign, only to fall below .500 the following season. The Auburn folks wanted a change, and Dye was their man. His start was shaky at 5-6, but the improvement was evident. Things were looking up, but no one knew how high the Auburn Tigers were headed with Dye. In 1983, Dye's Tigers reeled off ten wins in a row, on their way to a bowl time, #3 ranking.

This was the closest that he would come to taking home a title. Dye would win two outright SEC titles and share another two before he hung up his whistle in 1992. Shug Jordan will always be known as Auburn's best coach, but I would give that title to Pat Dye without deliberation.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Big XII: Bill Snyder


Career Stats at Kansas St


2 Big Xll Titles, 5 North Division Titles

Without even having to think about it; Bill Snyder is my Big Xll guy. His accomplishments are legendary and at a place where no other coach had succeeded before. It took him just two seasons beyond his 1989, 1-10 start to get Kansas State to 7 wins for the first time since 1954. And that was just the beginning of his K State wizardry.

Just five seasons in and his Wildcats had 9 wins, which K State had not achieved since 1910. But as they say, "You ain't seen nothing yet ." By 1998, his Wildcats would come within a Big XII title game win of going to the BCS Championship game. Snyder won 11 games at K State on SEVEN different occasions throughout his 27-year tenure. That is about as legendary as it gets.

ACC: Frank Beamer


Carrer Stats at Murray State & Virginia Tech


1 Ohio Valley Conference Title, 3 Big East Titles, 4 ACC Titles, 6 Coastal Division Titles

Like Bill Snyder, Frank Beamer is a legend for his Virginia Tech accomplishments. However, he had already turned heads before he arrived in Blacksburg with his 42 wins at Murray State. Bill Dooley had taken Virginia Tech to heights they had never seen, winning 64 games in 9 seasons before he departed for Wake Forest. The Hokies wanted to keep that momentum going, so they hired the best coach they could find; Frank Beamer from Murray State.

Beamer got off to a shaky start in Blacksburg, going 2-9 in his first season, a team that had won 9 games the previous season. But the Tech fans remained patient throughout his 5-17 start. The patience paid off as things began to turn for the Hokies by his 3rd season, a couple of six-win seasons, and folks were cautiously optimistic. A shaky start for Beamer and the Hokies in their first two seasons in the Big East could have been the end for Beamer, but the fans stayed with him. Once again, it was good that they did.

In 1993, the Hokies started an incredible run of 23 straight seasons above .500. This run included thirteen 10-plus win seasons, Six 11-win seasons, seven conference titles, and a BCS Title game appearance.

Pac-12: Terry Donahue


Career Stats at UCLA

UCLA 151–74–8

5 PAC 10 Titles, 7 straight bowl wins (1982-1988)

No sob stories here; UCLA was a great gig when Terry got the job. And there was no time wasted getting things going when he was promoted from offensive line coach to the big cheese in 1976. Unfortunately, although things were stable for his first six seasons, no PAC Titles were achieved. And this was probably due to USC being in the thick of the national scene during that span. Nevertheless, he waited his turn, and as soon as USC fell off in the 1980s, Donahue seized the moment. From '82 to '87, Terry would win 4 PAC Titles, and he added another in '93.

This may not sound overly impressive, but it was pure gold for UCLA, a program that had not won consecutive PAC titles since the 1950s. Add to that; that no single UCLA coach had ever won more than 3 PAC Titles in their entire history, and you begin to understand the golden era of Donahue's tenure.